Modeling Tips

Avoiding Mistakes in Population Modeling
H. Resit Akçakaya

The following list includes some of the mistakes modelers make in developing ecological models at the population or metapopulation levels, for example for population viability analysis. It grew out of my experiences in reviewing and editing papers on modeling, answering questions from RAMAS users, as well as my own mistakes.

My goal is mostly to help users of RAMAS Metapop and RAMAS GIS avoid these common mistakes. Although the list focuses on models developed using these programs, most (if not all) of these issues are relevant for models developed in any program or using any modeling platform.

Note that whether a model feature is a mistake or not depends on the context (the species, other model components and features, etc.). Thus, for example, modeling only females is a mistake only under some circumstances. Such circumstances are discussed in the links below.

I welcome any feedback, comments, and suggestions, including mundane things like misspellings and broken links, and (more importantly) suggestions about additional types of mistakes, references, approaches, etc.

General Mistakes

Modeling Demographic Structure

Modeling Density Dependence

Adding Variability (Stochasticity)

Modeling Spatial Structure

Presenting Results

Impact Assessment